Unless you have a child it’s impossible to understand just how much time they demand, and it’s common for parents trying to get a few minutes of relief to allow their child to use a technological device to entertain themselves. That said, there should be limits to the number of time toddlers view devices like televisions, smartphones, and tablets, according to a new study that scanned the brains of pre-school aged children.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, and attempted to answer whether screen-based media could be associated with “differences in the structural integrity of brain white matter tracts that support language and literacy skills in preschool-aged children.” Using a diffusion tensor imaging scan, researchers examined 47 healthy children aged between 3 to 5 years old. Their aim? To determine the effects that screen usage, greater than the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (of one hour), could have on the levels of development in the brain’s white matter.
Parents were also asked to fill out a questionnaire that identified their ScreenQ and determined how much screen time their children had each day.
“This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids,” lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital said, according to CNN. He continued, “This is important because the brain is developing the most rapidly in the first five years. That’s when brains are very plastic and soaking up everything, forming these strong connections that last for life.”
The results indicated that children who had more access to screen time than the recommended daily amount had “more disorganized, underdeveloped white matter throughout the brain,” CNN notes.
We live in a technological age, and screens are portable, which means they are available everywhere, including the bedroom and during mealtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (via WebMD) recommends that children aged between 18 and 24 months should watch “only high-quality programming that the child and parent watch together.” Children from 2 to 5 should be limited to an hour a day, and parents should watch these programs with their child.
CNN notes that earlier studies have already shown how too much screen time can affect a child, causing behavioral problems, poor eating habits, and the inability to pay attention.